Archive for January, 2012

Football Cake Pops (Dairy-Free Ganache Version)

January 30, 2012

This is the pareve sequel to my Chanukah cake pops (which were very dairy, with lots of butter and cream cheese). Instead of making pareve “cream cheese” frosting, I went with part ganache and part vanilla frosting.


Cinnamon Toast and Banana Cinnamon Toast

January 30, 2012

Cinnamon toast: either you grew up with it and have definite ideas about it, or you probably never heard of it. My mom made it in the toaster oven. Buttered slices of bread topped with cinnamon sugar, toasted until the butter and cinnamon sugar fused together into a crisp topping. A favorite variation was banana cinnamon toast, which involved a layer of sliced bananas between the butter and cinnamon sugar (now I sometimes use peanut butter instead of butter between the bananas and bread).

A healthier way of making this is to use whole wheat bread and to spray the bread with cooking spray before sprinkling on the cinnamon sugar and popping it in the toaster oven until the sugar melts into a crispy glaze on the toasted bread. No, it isn’t as decadent as with butter, but it is still yummily reminiscent of cinnamon buns/danish/babka, while having all the simple virtues of a plain slice of toast.

This is a wonderfully soothing thing to eat, especially if you are feeling a bit out of sorts.

Parshat Bo: Night and Day Lava Cakes (Plus Chocolate Lava and Blondie Lava Cakes)

January 26, 2012

In Nesivos Shalom (pp. 73-74, based on the Toldos Yaacov Yosef)  Slonimer Rebbe offers an interesting explanation of choshet, the plague of darkness: what the Mitzrim and B’nei Yisroel was both experiencing was an overwhelming spiritual light. The Mitzrim experienced this as impenetrable darkness–they were blinded by the light. Similarly, the Jews that were not prepared to leave Mitzraim could not handle the light and it killed them. The Jews who were ready to leave Mitzraim experienced it positively and for them there was light.

The analogy is made to the experience of the righteous and the wicked in the afterlife. Heaven and hell can be the same place, but the righteous can appreciate its purely spiritual nature, while the wicked find it excruciating. Why is this so? The Rambam explains that just as a sick person can taste sweet as bitter, those who are spiritually deprived perceive good as bad.

Finally tasting water after being without it for three days, B’nei Yisroel found it bitter. The Toldos Yaacov Yosef says that Torah is the water; having gone three days without studying Torah, B’nei Yisroel had a hard time appreciating its sweetness.

Three in-depth discussions of this:
Rabbi Yitzchok Alderstein, “The Painful Darkness of Light,” Nesivos Shalom, Parshas Bo,

Rabbi Moshe M. Wilner, “Blinding Light,” Parshas Bo, Parsha Encounters, Chicago Community Kollel

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, “Bo,” Parsha Insights,

Rabbi Alderstein adds to this discussion an insight from Rav Moshe Midner: “‘To all Bnei Yisroel there was light in their dwellings.’ Sometimes, the light is too much for any individual to bear. When Jews dwell together, when they band together as a group to bring down Hashem’s light, they are able to jointly receive it. This is why Jews gather and sit with each other in large groups on Shabbos.”


Chipotle-Avocado Quinoa Salad

January 26, 2012

I was very ambitious for Friday night dinner last week: I made this quinoa salad, plus tempeh mole with braised string beans and mashed sweet potatoes, plus serving the more usual potato kugel, schnitzel, stuffed cabbage, white rice and star-shaped ptitim (starch, meat, meat, starch, starch).

My husband loved the quinoa salad, hinting it would make a great lunch to take to work. The delicately tinted green dressing tastes as rich as if it was made with lots of oil or mayonnaise, but most of the richness comes from the avocado.

quinoa salad with avocado dressing

salad made with red quinoa

The dressing, incidentally, is wonderful as a salad dressing (think avocado Caesar salad and use Romaine lettuce, with grape tomatoes and some croutons or tortilla chips).


Perfect Pumpkin Bread

January 24, 2012

This is the pumpkin bread recipe you need. Sweet and moist, but not too sweet, spicy, but not overbearingly so–this irresistible pumpkin bread has been winning accolades for my mom. She made it for Thanksgiving, and it was a huge success. So much so that my mom decided to bake it for other occasions.  Now, she is asked to bring it all the time and it is rapidly becoming a signature dessert.

The recipe comes from Lunch ‘Til Four, a cookbook put together by the sisterhood of Young Israel of West Hempstead. This cookbook, incidentally, is full of wonderful recipes. One of the recipe contributors is Michele Friedman, the author of Chef’s Confidential.

This pumpkin bread is almost exactly the same as Irene’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread, except that Irene uses allspice instead of nutmeg and 12 ounces of chocolate chips instead of nuts and raisins. Plus, Irene uses a slightly different mixing method, adding the sugar to the dry ingredients.


Israel 365

January 23, 2012

Take a look at this beautiful picture of the Rosh Hanikra caves by my sister, Yehudit Zagdanski. The picture is being featured by Israel 365, a site which “promotes the beauty and religious significance of Israel. Featuring the stunning photographs of more than 30 award winning Israeli photographers alongside an inspiring Biblical verse, Israel365 connects you with Israel each day.”

Here is what the site says about the photo:

“Located in the northwest corner of Israel, Rosh Hanikra has sat on the trade route between Syria to the north and Egypt to the south since ancient times. The beautiful caves are accessible for visitors by the steepest cable car in the world (60 degrees) where you can see for yourself why Rosh Hanikra calls itself, the ‘love story between the sea and the mountain.'”

You can get the daily photos and text from Israel 365 through a free iPhone app or by signing up for a free daily e-mail. Israel 365 is a project of United with Israel.

Va’eira: Frogs Here, Frogs There . . . .

January 19, 2012

When I asked my son about the parsha, he and my daughter starting singing the frog song (“frogs here, frogs there . . .”). He told me that there was one big frog, and the Egyptians hit it and it became many frogs.

There is an interesting post at Rationalist Judaism that complains that schoolchildren are taught the above Rashi as peshat instead of derash.  Rashi explains that the use of the singular for frog (“the frog came up and covered the land of Egypt”) has the midrashic interpretation that one frog was beaten and turned into many frogs and the simple meaning that “frog” can mean a swarm of frogs, the way that lice is singular and plural at the same time.


Spicy Goan Curry Black-Eyed Peas

January 15, 2012

I stumbled across Hungry Desi last night and wanted to make everything I saw. I started with a recipe for black-eyed peas that Nithya adapted from Ruta Kahate’s “5 Spices, 50 Dishes” (as it appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle). I looked back to the original recipe, and added back in the coconut milk that Nithya left out.



Garlic Paprika Tilapia

January 15, 2012

My grandmother A”H used to make wonderful garlic carp. She would take carp steaks and rub them with garlic, salt and paprika and then bake the fish for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. This carp was one of her fish specialties, along with pickled salmon.

I tried this with some tilapia filets, and the delectable smell of this cooking brought my family to the table in record time.

Here is what I did: mashed garlic to a paste with a little salt and rubbed it all over the fish filets (1 clove was enough for three filets). Sprinkled over a very generous amount of paprika. I added a light sprinkle of Paul Prudhomme blackened fish seasoning (which has paprika, herbs, garlic powder, onion powder and some other spices).  Then I drizzled over some olive oil and rubbed the oil and seasoning into the fish.

I roasted the fish at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes (it was really done after about 10-15 minutes, but my husband likes his fish really well cooked).

Bonus: Sierra has a recipe for sauteed tilapia with tomato garlic  sauce that looks nice. I was originally thinking of serving my tilapia with tomato sauce, but the fish got eaten up before I had a chance to implement this plan.

Shemot: Moshe B’Tayva Cookies

January 11, 2012

In Israel, hot dogs in puff pastry are called Moshe B’Tayva, referencing Moshe in the little basket floating in the Nile river. This is good for an appetizer, but not for a dessert. Instead, I decided to make cream horns, also known as clothespin cookies, because you can use round clothespins as the mold instead of the usual metal tubes.

Four kinds of molds for cream horns: (1) lady lock molds, which are conical; (2) cannoli molds, which are hollow tubes; (3) mini cannoli molds; and (4) wooden clothespins, wrapped in nonstick foil.

Why did Moshe’s mother put him in the Nile in a basket? According to Rashi, Pharoh’s astrologers predicted that someone would be born who would save the Jews, but that person would be brought down by water. So Pharoh commanded baby boys to be cast in the Nile.  Moshe’s mother put him in the basket in the Nile so that Pharoh’s astrologers would think that he had already been cast into the river (Midrash Rabbah). As a result, the astrologers claimed that their predictions have come true, and Pharoh recalls his decree (Shemot Rabba 1:25; Sotah 12 b)

Did Pharoh’s daughter try to reach for the tayva, or did she send her maid to fetch it? There is a Midrash that she reached for the tayva, although it was out of reach, and her arm miraculously extended to be able to get it. The Kotzker Rebbe asks why she would extend her arm if she knew the tayva was beyond reach. Often, when a situation seems beyond our control, we resign ourselves to inactivity, the Kotzker Rebbe notes. “There is a profound lesson here for each and every one of us . . . .  Pharaoh’s daughter heard a child’s cry and extended her arm. An unbridgeable distance lay between her and the basket containing the weeping infant, making her action seem utterly pointless. But because she did the maximum of which she was capable, she achieved the impossible. Because she extended her arm, G-d extended its reach, enabling her to save a life and raise the greatest human being ever to walk the face of the earth.”

Trust me when I tell you, these cookies are not beyond reach, or even that much of a stretch. They are really easy, even though they look hard.